Ford, MIT Collaborate to Bring Electric Vehicle Shuttle to University’s Campus


Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are collaborating on a new transportation research project that will introduce a fleet of on-demand electric vehicle shuttles to the university’s Cambridge, Mass. campus this September.

Using light detection and ranging sensors and cameras, the vehicles measure pedestrian flow to help predict demand for shuttles, among other features.

“The onboard sensors and cameras gather pedestrian data to estimate the flow of foot traffic,” says Ken Washington, vice president of research and advanced engineering at Ford. “This helps us develop efficient algorithms that bring together relevant data. It improves mobility-on-demand services, and aids ongoing pedestrian detection and mapping efforts for autonomous vehicle research.”

MIT’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Department’s Aerospace Controls Lab, which researches topics related to autonomous systems and control design for aircraft, spacecraft, and ground vehicles, is conducting the research.

When the shuttle service is released, students and faculty will be able to use a mobile application to hail one of three electric urban vehicles to their location and request to be dropped off at another destination on campus.

The electric vehicles, which feature waterproof enclosures, are small enough to be able to navigate the campus sidewalks while leaving room for traditional pedestrian traffic.

Washington says the collaboration with MIT further enhances Ford’s Dynamic Shuttle project, which provides point-to-point shuttle rides to employees requesting rides using a mobile application on the company’s Dearborn campus.

The project is one of more than 30 mobility solutions university research projects between Ford and universities in the U.S., Germany, and China.